Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Leaving a Kindred Gracefully

This seems like an odd topic for an essay about heathenry. But life is complex. People are called up for active-duty by the military. People are offered better jobs, that are in other cities and states. Marriages break-up, and sometimes one must move to stay close to one's children. The circumstances of one's life can change, and this can make staying with a kindred difficult, if not impossible.

Let me first say, that I would not leave my kindred. I was one of the founding members of Jotun's Bane Kindred, and the formation of our kindred was based on a oath I made directly to Thor and our Gods, prior to me personally knowing even one other heathen. The formation of JBK was something that I had to do. And it is difficult to imagine a situation that could pull me away from my tribe. It means too much to me.

But there are times, when you will have to pull away from a group of people for circumstances beyond your control. If you care at all about your honor, your reputation (Gefrain), and your established friendships within that group...there are things you should do that will make your exit from that group more graceful. Less damaging.

First, you should face the group in-person and explain to them the circumstances of why you must leave. This should happen at an existing meeting, or if need be, a special meeting of the group. An email to the group, or the group's leadership will not suffice. Actually, an email to the group or its leadership completely lacks the directness, the honesty, or the courage that we expect to see from Tru heathens. An email will cause anger and disgust by the group towards you. But a face-to-face explanation to the group, allows them to all hear the facts at once, allows them to see your emotions and attitude about leaving, and allows them to ask questions and have a conversation with you about it.

If you must leave immediately, and a face-to-face meeting is impossible with the group...then its your obligation to call every member of that group, starting with the leadership, and explain to each of them that you are leaving, and why you have to leave. You begin with the leadership of the group out of respect, and so they can begin making the adjustments that need to be made to limit the damage to the group done by your leaving.

If your reasons for leaving are good, and any reasonable person can see why you must leave...telling the group you are leaving will likely not be confrontational. If you are a tight-knit group, telling them will be emotional, but not confrontational.

If you reasons for leaving are sort of sketchy, then expect some fairly serious questions to be asked of you about your reasoning and your motivations. There is no obligation on the members of the group you are leaving to “automatically” accept your reasons for leaving “without question.” After all, you are leaving the group...a group that you committed to. And while you control whether you leave or not, the group itself (and its members) are in control of how they react to your leaving. You have no control of their reaction.

Now, what I've explained above does not seem to be what most people leaving a group seem to want to do. I tell you this from the standpoint of having seen it in various types of groups during my lifetime, including our heathen tribe. Most people seem incapable of facing the group face-to-face and simply explaining why they must leave. For some reason, they can't just come and say:

“This isn't working out for me, I'd like to leave the group but I'd like to remain friends with this kindred.”

“This isn't working out for me, I'd like to start my own kindred, but I want to stay on friendly terms with this kindred.”

“I have to move away for (insert reason), but I want to stay in touch and on friendly terms with this kindred.

Instead, what most people do, is come up with justifications for their leaving that involve being angry with the group. They fear the reaction of the group to their leaving, so they build up anger and emotion towards the group. They begin looking at the group as their enemy, based on the reaction they “believe” they will get. Even though this reaction they “believe” they will get is probably farthest from the truth. And this frustration and anger builds, until they lash out at the group. Essentially, its easier for them to start some kind of fight with the group, so that they can blame their leaving the group on the group itself.

That sounds a little odd, but I've seen it over and over again. Rather than just face the group, explain their reasons, and then pulling away with friendships and their honor intact...people will often take the cowards way out, cause a fight, and then run off. Somewhere in their head, they feel this has shifted the blame and responsibility from their shoulders...but it actually makes things worse. They actually cause more damage to the group and themselves by leaving in this manner.

To limit this sort of damage to your group, kindred, or tribe, its not a bad idea to address the subject of “how to leave the group” in your group's by-laws. Talk about it with new members, so that they know what is expected of them should they ever have to leave. This will not completely prevent people from leaving in the worst of ways, but its better than not addressing the topic at all.

Mark Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Kansas City Area

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see someone addressing this issue. I've never seen a kindred with a "if you have to leave" clause but I think it's a great idea. At the time I left my old kindred, there wasn't such a thing, but I did make sure to square everything before going. You'd think it'd be instinctual, you know, making sure there's no hard feelings. Guess not but I think it depends on the situation too.